SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Real Salt Lake began a crucial home stretch with a much-needed and impressive victory over their arch rivals.
Sam Johnson scored two first half goals, as RSL beat Sporting Kansas City 2-0 on Saturday night in front of 18,933 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.
With the victory, RSL improves to 7-8-2 as it begins a stretch of eight out of eleven games at home with an important victory.
“It was a great three points,” head coach Mike Petke said. “Great result for us. Taking advantage of a home game against a team that’s undefeated I believe in its last three road games.”
Johnson opened the scoring in the 16th minute. Damir Kreilach blocked Albert Rusnák’s corner back into the middle of the area, Kyle Beckerman headed it along and Johnson tapped it home for to give Real Salt Lake an early 1-0 advantage.
Matt Besler’s defensive miscue for Sporting (4-6-7) near midfield led to an RSL counterattack that ended with Johnson’s second goal in the 29th. Rusnák gathered the ball that Besler misplayed, led the three-on-one into the penalty area and fed it back to the middle where Kreilach and Johnson were trailing. Kreilach touched it first, teeing it up for Johnson’s strike.
“First of all, give a round of applause to my teammates for the good work, especially Albert Rusnák, Sebastian Saucedo and Damir Kreilach for the assist,” said Johnson, who took over the team lead with 7 goals on the season. “Scoring goals is really good and getting the win is very good.”
“Is Sam getting more comfortable? I think so,” Petke said. “I’ve worked with a number of strikers over my five years as a head coach and seven years as a somewhat of an assistant coach/head coach in this league. I’ve encountered a number of players that come from different countries, different cultures, different philosophies, different playing styles, different everything. And for the most part, it takes a while for the adjustment period is set in. So if you ask me if he is getting more comfortable? I think so. “
RSL nearly made it 3-0 in the second half, but Damir Kreilach’s header goal off of a pass from Rusnak was waved off on video review when Kreilach was ruled to be offside.
Nick Rimando celebrated his 8th MLS All-Star Game selection by making three saves to earn the clean sheet.
RSL is now just one point behind Houston for the final playoff spot in the West. They next host the Columbus Crew Wednesday night at 8:00, and hope to keep this momentum going at home.
“Last season, in the second half of the season, I think we were the best home team in our conference, and overall, maybe the third team in MLS,” Rusnak said. “That’s really what we’re looking to do this season as well. I know we reached the halfway point today, I think we’ve played 17 matches so far. The home games are going to be crucial for us. We know we’re a strong team at home, and I think everybody who comes here knows that as well. So we’re looking to win another game on Wednesday.”
RSL captain Kyle Beckerman will miss Wednesday’s match after receiving a yellow card in the first half Saturday night.